Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Even Feminists Disagree (from Emily)

Ok, here it is! The promised, long-awaited, response to Erica's most recent post.

I think Erica made some really excellent points in that post, and she provided a broad overview of recent gender-related events. I agree with Erica's assessment of the article on how expensive the GOP is, in comparison to what they actually accomplish: the article would be stronger if it did the same work with the Democratic Party too.

I also really appreciated Tim Wise's article, Imagine if the Tea Party Was Black. I had never considered the politics of race from that vantage point before, and I think it is very important for everyone to consider how skin tone and ethnicity impact the way we perceive others' actions. And I'm not saying that in a "it's only racism if white people do it" kind of way. Frankly, I don't understand why anyone is offended by that article, since Wise doesn't even answer questions - he just raises them. You're free to determine your own answers to those questions. I, for one, was shocked to realize that I would personally feel more sympathetic to the Tea Party movement if it were comprised mainly of people of color. I would see their complaints as more justifiable. But I was also shocked (and horrified) to realize that the movement would frighten me more if it were comprised of individuals who didn't share my pasty skin tone. So yes, as the critics of this article point out, racism isn't only perpetuated by white people. But I've said it before, and I'll say it again - two wrongs don't make a right. This is why I get really mad when some of the people in the Womanist community say feminism doesn't matter because racism is a bigger problem than sexism, or that white people can't experience racism. And it's also why I get mad when white people dismiss reports of racism against people of color by saying "it happens to white people too." You know what my response is? Grow Up. "They started it!" hasn't worked since the first grade.

I do, however, disagree quite a bit with Erica about this sex ed campaign in the UK. I think this campaign is a horrible idea. Even if I look at it from a nonreligious viewpoint, there's no substantial scientific research to back up the theory that masturbation (or self-stimulation as the more puritanical side of me prefers to call it) will actually decrease intercourse, pregnancy, and STDs among teens. I may not know much more about sex than what they teach in high school health class, but this I know - sexual desires have  a way of building and growing. A teenager who begins stimulating those desires in him or herself is probably going to be all the more anxious to experience intercourse. I'm all for teenagers understanding their bodies and their sexual desires. Because understanding your desires allows you to bridle your passions (not destroy - just bridle them). The other reason this program really bothers me is that it didn't take parents' wishes into account. I have survived 24 years without any sort of sexual experience, whether self-stimulated or otherwise. That will obviously change when I get married, but in the meantime... it's not hurting me. It's not hampering my creativity, or preventing me from understanding myself. And some day, when I have kids, I intend to teach them to not masturbate, and not have sex out side of marriage. In my faith, sex outside the bonds of marriage is a big deal. A really big deal. And if when I have kids someone tried teaching them otherwise, I'd be very upset, because from my viewpoint, that person would be jeopardizing my children's eternal salvation. So, while I highly respect what the individuals behind this sex ed campaign are trying to do, I disagree. Entirely. In fact, the thought of that campaign makes me feel sick to my stomach, because I think it will create more problems than they can possibly imagine.

I have a more nuanced response to television networks deciding to pull the ad with a plus-sized model from family hour television. Having watched the ad, I don't think it belongs on during family hour TV. In fact, that's the kind of ad that leads to me picking up magazines in the grocery store, and rearranging them so that the more scandalous covers are not visible. But, like Erica, I'm concerned that they chose to remove this ad, when they leave up similar ads that have much thinner models in them. And at least this was an underwear ad - plenty of other commercials have no reason at all for portraying women in their underwear. So what I'm saying is that, while I personally am not comfortable with that ad showing on TV - it's still wrong that so many people would think that woman was overly sexual because she is a plus size model, when a normal (anorexic) model would have been ok by them. I'm starting to think that that old quote about beautiful women getting thinner and thinner, because someone wants them to disappear is true. As a thin woman, I know firsthand that thinness makes some people more comfortable with a woman. That it can make her seem less powerful and thus less threatening. I'm very concerned that that discomfort with powerful women is what's driven people to feel so uncomfortable with this plus size model wearing underwear on TV. And this is coming from a woman who uses cooking magazines to cover up magazines that have racy pictures women on them - at the grocery store.

1 comment:

  1. I think you raise a good point about the role parenting needs to play in the development of sexuality, and that's somewhere where we can agree. In an ideal universe, parents are engaged with their children and are able to be emotionally available to provide conversation/education, feedback, and structure for someone as they're growing up and learning about their bodies and sexualities. I also think, though, that a ridiculous number of parents either are unable to be so engaged, or aren't willing to be. And that leaves a gaping hole of people growing up without positive feedback and knowledge.

    One of the really positive things about this campaign is that it acknowledges a truth about many adolescents: they become sexually active. Not all, of course, but many do, regardless of their upbringing and personalities, and encouraging alternatives might not be as catastrophic as you suggest. Does it mean that some youth might self-stimulate, decide it feels great, and then go off to have sex? Potentially- I doubt there's enough information to give us statistical data. But it also means that many youth- probably many who are already masturbating- might think twice before thinking that orgasms need to be shared.